The Orchestra – Different Parts, Same Outcome

I typically use the metaphor of an orchestra with Testers across different teams/products/squads within an organisation to help the understanding of how different testers can offer value within their teams.

The idea being that the argument “I test websites & they test data” is redundant when you’re thinking of the product or system as a whole

Regardless of the focus of your testing, those who are doing the testing need to have a common understanding of the testing being performed throughout the entire organisation, not just within their silo.

Understanding what testing is being performed where & by whom really helps to share knowledge & dare I say it, break down silos.

The example I use is “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

Those outside of testing (& especially those with a CxO title) expect to hear this:

 Geoff Love & His Orchestra– 2001: A Space Odyssey

Each orchestra member is playing a different instrument, but the end result is something magnificent & unified. For me, this maps to each team member offering some valuable testing in order to deliver the quality product.

Whereas what I often see is the testing community within an organisation forgetting the bigger picture. The result for those outside the testing community (including the CxO’s) is this:

Everybody is (generally) making the right noises & trying their best, they’re just not in sync with each other.

A prime example of this is the use of the term “regression testing” (the danger quotes are intentional). That term means different things to different people within the testing community, yet alone the others outside testing who have to try & interpret who is using the term in what context.

The situation gets worse when we prefix the term “regression testing” with “full” or “partial”.

I’m not here to rant about “regression testing” – that’s for another day…

My point is that we all fulfill different roles on our teams (& each role should add value) but ultimately we’re there to achieve one common goal – delight our customers.

Done right, our roles should work in harmony in order to deliver a quality product.

This argument can be expanded to the Agilist idea of a team of generalists. Yes, I’m sure a violinist could adapt to playing another string instrument, but would you want that? She’s probably spent her 10,000 hours learning to play the violin – why ask her to play the double bass when she probably doesn’t want to & someone else could play it far better than her (who has spent 10,000 hours learning the double bass).

BTW – the 10,000 hours practice to become an expert might actually be a myth

As is the same with development – I as a Tester haven’t trained to become a great Programmer. I’ve trained to become a great Tester. Great testing may involve some programming, which I’m prepared to do, but I’m gonna need help & I don’t want to sacrifice my testing skills in the process.


P.S. my metaphor falls down with the conductor – where does he fit in self organising teams? I’m wondering if a better model might be the folk music jam session…?